The synergy between sports scientists and physiotherapists is a pre-requisite in the modern game, but that cohesive backroom operation can have a huge impact on a club’s campaign if implemented correctly and diligently.
While the limelight shines deservingly on two-time Skybet Championship Manager of the Month victor Sean Dyche and his cluster of Clarets, you have to applaud the finer - yet imperative and influential details - that are happening in the background.
Turf Moor physio Alasdair Beattie and head of sports science Mark Howard have certainly contributed to Burnley’s winning formula this season, working in unison with first team coach Tony Loughlan. While the Clarets have excelled on the pitch, the duo have undoubtedly mastered their trade off it.
It’s an intricate fusion of rest and recuperation and strength and conditioning, delving beyond medical assessment and in to mentality and nutrition in a bid to maximise physical fitness and guard against those niggling soft tissue injuries.
Of the 72 teams in the Football League, only Walsall and Morecambe have utilised less players than the Clarets, while Oxford United are level on 24. Compare that figure to other clubs in the Championship and there’s a vast difference with Millwall and Birmingham City heading the chart with 40.
But it’s one thing to use a small number of personnel, and it’s another to have that group competing and succeeding in a reputably relentless tier of English football.
Aside from Ross Wallace’s unavoidable injury lay-off following knee surgery at the beginning of the term, the Burnley backroom staff have afforded Dyche the luxury of consistent squad selection by keeping injuries at a premium.
Michael Duff, Ben Mee, Dean Marney and Danny Ings have been subjected to spells on the sidelines, but they’ve been treated with precautionary and precise programmes that have significantly limited the respective periods of absence. Keith Treacy’s fitness levels have also been revived.
While Beattie joined the club in July 2010 ahead of Burnley’s Premier League campaign, it wasn’t until February last year that he would be united with Howard. The latter, who played an integral part in helping nurse Ings back to full fitness after two serious knee injuries, worked alongside Sam Allardyce when the current Hammers boss set the revolutionary trend while at the Reebok Stadium with Bolton in the early 2000s.
Howard went on to hone his expertise in the specialist field at Newcastle United briefly in 2007 and at Blackburn Rovers.
“The one that we try and guard against are soft tissue injuries, because with good dietary support, strength and conditioning, good base fitness from pre-season, we hope and think we can keep our numbers high as regards availability,” said Dyche.
“The ones where someone runs over and belts someone on the ankle, you can’t do a lot about that, but I think that’s going out of the game anyway, the game’s changing in terms of severe contact injuries, so it’s more about muscular strength.
“We think we have good support with our science and physiotherapy staff.
“And it must be said, the detail the players put into it. You can lay on any session you want, the players bring it to life and take responsibility for it. We’ve shared that with them, they’ve grasped it, and long may it continue.”
Dyche added: “Statistically we’re are (still outrunning teams). That was always a question mark, could they, would they, should they?
“Well, 30-odd games in, we’re still looking full of energy, belief and quality.
“We just look to continue that, and we have to respect that and keep putting in the right planning and training to get the best out of everyone.
“You can add to fitness in different ways. When you talk about fitness, it might be balance, lean body mass, good dietary control, all sorts of things.
“There’s a lot of realities, but they can borderline into excuses when you talk about a lot of games. There are a lot of games, but there’s also way better support systems than I had as a player, dietary support, understanding from coaches about the mental and physical side of the game, so they have got support there.
“The lads can keep going, make no mistake, they can play as many games as they need to, I’m convinced of that.
“We’re rolling through the weeks and games, we’re in a great situation and looking forward to every challenge.”